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The two sitcoms I’m going to compare are ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld’. Both are American sitcoms based in glamorous city, New York, this is done because the state is filled with cars, people and their famous yellow taxis, as there are more than 11 million people that live there, this simply adds to the busy, fast paced, hectic style of both sitcoms. For instance, if they where set in a remote, quite setting the situations would be half as animated and lively, this type of social setting is not uncommon for American sitcoms, for instance
In this particular ‘Friends’ episode the Chandler- Monica relationship is imperative in how gender is represented.
Chandler deviates from the traditional masculinity associated with males. He is depicted as ‘feminine’ and ‘girly’, this contrasts with his wife Monica who demonstrates masculine drive, and has natural authority. This conventional role-reversal is typical for situation comedies.
For instance, in this episode Chandler is disappointed to see the china being used for dinner isn’t the pink feminine set he originally wanted to use, when he asks Monica about this she tells him she isn’t using his chosen china because it’s too girly for her; Monica has the male taste in china whilst Chandler has the feminine taste.
Chandler is depicted like this in most other episodes as well, for instance when he cries at the 6 ‘o clock news or when he cleans the whole apartment. As with Chandler this role reversal is typically at the male’s expense.
However, even though Monica is the dominant character in the relationship with Chandler, she still fulfills the role of housekeeper and cook, even though she works and her husband doesn’t, for instance in this episode she stills cleans all the dishes, tidies up etc she is still the ‘housewife’. This is done to add a sense of familiarity and a sense of homeliness to the episode and overall sitcom. This differs from Elaine’s character in Seinfeld’s ‘the contest’; she attacks the typical gender roles and shows how social context has changed.
For instance, in this episode she fully partakes in ‘The Contest’ in which the person who survives the longest without masturbating wins, although she eventually masturbates and no-one wins. The males initially fear that the contest will not pose a challenge to Elaine due to her gender: “It’s easier for a woman not to do than a man! ” For Jerry, George, and Kramer, Elaine’s gender will disrupt the balance of the challenge and endanger their chances for dominance. In the end, the men allow Elaine to participate, but this suggestion only meets approval after George raises the stakes by increasing Elaine’s financial contribution.
Elaine accepts an action which symbolizes payment of membership dues for entry into this private boys club, or this “community of men. ” She highlights the societal change in the way women are perceived as she differs from the strong representation of control associated with women. She is more in line with Rachel’s character who is a career women trying to break the mould. George’s character is similar to that of Chandlers, a self-doubting and insecure person, for instance in this episode when everyone doubts his promise to stop masturbating he jumps at them, ‘… you don’t think I can?… you think you could?… This is almost an carbon copy of Chandlers reaction ‘… well what is wrong with me? am I .. am I incompetent?… ‘
Another stereotypical character is represented in Joey, he’s the typical male slob; his laziness, and forgetfulness often leads to him missing his auditions. For instance, in this episode he forgets to go to the parade with the rest of the ‘Days of our Lives’ cast, this could lead to him getting fired. He is a talented actor but he is stereotypically not able to achieve his full potential because of the lack of professionalism, his male qualities often hold him back. He is represented as almost childlike.
Both these episodes follow Tordorovs theory of Equilibrium, Disequilibrium and Re-equilibrium perfectly. Like in Friends where Rachel’s sister adds to the disequilibrium by playing the traditional spoilt rich girl or in Seinfeld where ‘the contest’ brings about the disequilibrium. The equilibrium is then restored again at the end and the situation is then re-established. So in conclusion, these episodes are largely constructed of gender stereotypes to fill there environments (30 minute episodes- no time for serious character establishment). Consequently both these sitcoms use stereotypes to explore gender representation.
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